Madonna of the Americas by Don Hildebrando Garza,
O.S.B., Mexico City, is a reprint from Sponsa Regis, May,
Reproductions of the Miraculous Picture of Our Lady of
Guadalupe in full color and gold may be had from: The
Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota. Holy Picture size:
$1.25 per 100. Large size for framing (6x9 inches): 5 for
$1.00; single copies $.30.
Sponsa Regis is published monthly by the Monks of St.
John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota. Subscription: $2.00.
MADONNA OF THE AMERICAS
WE know of but one Madonna not wrought by earthly craft.
Among the world-famous Madonnas of the Renaissance —
Raphael's, Michelangelo's, and Murillo's — one reigns su-
preme both as to beauty and artistic style. This picture, Our Lady
of Guadalupe, given us by Our Lady herself in a direct and
miraculous manner, stands out in a remarkable way as a sign of
her special predilection for America.
Unfortunately, few people realize that Our Lady of Guadalupe
is the Madonna, not of Mexico alone, but of the Americas. When
she appeared, four hundred years ago, there was neither Mexico
nor the United States nor Canada, nor any other nation of present
name in the Western Hemisphere, but simply two continents
united into one. "Happy America! Favored Americans! America
beloved by Mary! O Americans, whence was this to you, that
the Mother of your Lord should come to you?" This is the way
in which preachers and poets, as well as canonists and historians
of the 17th and 18th centuries, spoke. Unfortunately for the
Americas, the partitioning into individual nations has obscured
the continentality of Our Lady's visit. Thus, while Mary is still
honored under this title (Guadalupe) with enthusiastic reverence
in Mexico itself, her significance to America as a whole has been
Holy Mary "De Guadalupe"
Besides bearing in mind that the picture of Our Lady of
Guadalupe is the only one known to have been given to us by
Our Lady herself, it is of great importance to remember also
that Our Lady of Guadalupe is not so called from the place at
which she appeared (Tepeyac), as was the case at Fatima in
Portugal or Lourdes in France, but because she herself gave
us this name. The name she gave is the Indian "Tecoatlaxopeuh",
transliterated by the Spanish speaking people as "de Guadalupe".
This Indian name is not meaningless; translated, it means "the
one who crushed the serpent". Hence Mary has given these
continents of ours the name by which she wishes to be honored
here. And if she is the one who crushed the serpent, then that
means the Immaculate Conception — a remarkable coincidence,
since in 1846 the Baltimore Council chose the Immaculate Con-
ception as Patroness of the United States.
The first written tradition furnishes us with a full story of
the apparitions, of which the following is only a brief account.
Early on the morning of Saturday, December 9, 1531, a poor
Indian peasant, called Juan Diego, simple and humble, one of
those recently converted to the Faith, was on his way from his
native village to Mass and instruction at one of the Franciscan
mission churches in the city of Mexico. Dawn was breaking as
he passed by the hill called Tepeyac, just three miles north of
the city. Suddenly there burst forth a beautiful song as of
thousands of birds singing. For an instant it ceased, and the
mountains echoed a response. Looking up to the crest of the
hill, he saw a white shining cloud, having around it a rainbow
whose colors were formed by rays of dazzling light that blazed
from the midst of the cloud.
Then it was very quiet, and he heard a women's voice calling
his name. Strangely overjoyed rather than frightened, he climbed
up the hill to see who was calling him. The voice came from
the brightness of the cloud and bade him draw nearer. Then
he saw her — a most beautiful Lady (just as she was to look
later in the miraculous picture).
"Juanito, Juan Dieguito, where are you going?"
"My Lady and Mistress, I am going to Mexico to hear Mass
and the divine things which the ministers of God teach us."
"Know, my son, my little one, that I am the ever Virgin,
Holy Mary, Mother of the true God, who is the Author of life,
the Creator of all things, the Lord of heaven and earth, present
everywhere. It is my wish that a church be erected to me in this
place. Here I will show myself as a loving Mother to you and
to all those born in these lands, and to all those who love me
and trust in me, for I am your loving Mother. Go to the palace
of the Bishop and tell him what you have heard and seen. Tell
him also of the church I ask for/'
When the Bishop heard Juan Diego, he treated him kindly,
though without believing him. Dismissing the Indian, the Bishop
promised to discuss the matter with him again after a few days.
The Second Appearance
The evening of the same day, Juan Diego, confused and
discouraged, came back looking for Our Lady and found her
waiting for him. He suggested to her that she send a more respect-
able person, who would be more easily believed. Our Lady
answered that she had many messengers and servants whom she
could send, but it was her desire that he should carry her message.
And so she asked him to go and see the Bishop again and tell
him it was the Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, who sent him.
Sunday the tenth, after hearing Mass and receiving instruction,
Juan went to the Bishop's house. The Bishop questioned him
again and again, and finally told him he would have to bring
a sign. Although Juan Diego confidently asked him what kind of
sign he wanted, the Bishop would not specify any particular
one. He sent the Indian away and commanded two of his servants
to follow him. Shortly afterwards, to the confusion of the Bishop's
men, they lost sight of Juan Diego. Not being able to find him,
they returned to the Bishop and said that they thought the Indian
must be a witch or an imposter, because he had disappeared
before their very eyes.
Juan Receives "The Sign"
Juan Diego, in the meantime, saw Our Lady again and,
after she had thanked him for what he had done, she told him
to come back on the following day for the sign.
At. dawn, December 12, Juan Diego set out. to call a priest
for his dying uncle, Juan Bernardino. Fearing that Our Lady
would detain him and cause him to be late, he decided to take
another road. To his surprise, he saw her descending the hill
to meet him. He explained to Our Lady about his uncle, that
he was on his way now for a priest and had intended to come
back immediately afterwards for the sign. The day before, on
the 11th of December, he had not been able to go to her at all
because he was taking care of his uncle.
Our Lady calmed his anguish. "Listen, my little son. There
is nothing which you need fear. Do not be anxious about this
illness, nor about any other illness or affliction. Am I not here
beside you, your merciful Mother? Am I not your hope and
salvation? Of what more do you have need? As to the illness of
your uncle, he will not die from it. Be assured that he is already
Roses In Wintertime
Juan Diego then asked Our Lady for the sign. She directed
him to climb up the hill to the place where he had first seen
her. There he was to gather and bring down to her an armful
of roses. Juan, in spite of the winter weather and the barrenness
of the place,, believed Our Lady. Going up hq found at the summit
fragrant Gastilian roses covered with dew. He cut as many as
he could and brought them down to Our Lady. With her own
hands she arranged them in his tilma (cloak). "Here is the sign
I promised in order to show my will to the Bishop. Go and see
him and show the roses to no one but him. Tell him of the church
I wish here. You are my ambassador, and I have confidence in
The Miraculous Image
At the Bishop's house Juan Diego waited for a long time
to see the Bishop. The servants noticed that he had something
in his tilma and was shielding it carefully from sight. Though
Juan Diego resisted, they managed to pull aside one corner of
the tilraa, and saw the roses. They reached for them several times,
but their hands only touched what seemed to be painted or woven
into the tilma. The amazed servants told the Bishop at once of
this strange happening. When the Bishop called him in, Juan
Diego related what Our Lady had told him and then, unfolding
his tilma, he allowed the roses to spill out. The Bishop's eyes
were fixed on the tilma, where there was now imprinted the
image of the most Holy Mary of Guadalupe, as Juan Diego had
On the same day, December 12, Our Lady appeared to Juan
Diego's dying uncle, Juan Bernardino. She told him that she had
come to cure him. She also said that it was her wish that a church
be erected at the foot of the hill of Tepeyac. Here her image,
which Juan Diego was carrying to the Bishop, was to be vener-
ated and be called "Holy Mary, ever Virgin, of Guadalupe."
Our Lady's image has been acclaimed by artists of world
renown. At the head of a commission of seven artists, who
examined the image in 1751, Miguel Cabrera declared:
"The plan of this holy Picture is so singular, so perfectly accom-
plished, and so manifestly marvelous, that whoever has any knowledge
of the art of painting, on seeing it at once declares it a miraculous
accomplishment Its most beautiful grace of symmetry is a marvel
that amazes those who are at all acquainted with sketching. Every
line and turn of it is so clearly , a miracle, that there actually shines
forth in the admirable work the supreme . power of its author."
In the Brief of Pope Benedict XIV (1754) we find these
"In it there is nothing which is not wonderful: a Picture from
flowers gathered in mid-winter on a soil entirely sterile and fit to
bear only thorns; on a cloth so thin that through it, as a lattice,
the temple lay easily open to the eyes: and that after two centuries
the niter of the neighboring lake, which erodes silver, gold, and brass,
has not in the least injured its supreme beauty (summam pulchritu-
dinem), nor its most vivid colors."
The Immaculate Virgin Of Guadalupe
That she is the Immaculate Conception, many writers and
preachers are agreed. Her very picture represents this Mystery,
Besides, the name ( Tecoatlaxepeuh ) which she gave signifies
Immaculate Conception. If she does not have the serpent under
her feet, as usually portrayed, it is because this effect is included
in her very title. And instead of the serpent, there is an angel,
which means even more: for she is not only the one who had
total enmity with the serpent, but also was born higher than
the angels, in the splendor of grace and glory.
Exactly a century before the dogma of the Immaculate
Conception was proclaimed, Benedict XIV did not hesitate to
call her, "Blessed Mary, Virgin Immaculate of Guadalupe."
In 1846 the Baltimore Fathers declared the Immaculate Con-
ception patroness of the United States. This was just a century
after Mexico had obtained the patronage of the Immaculate
Virgin of Guadalupe. And could it be otherwise, since these lands
already belonged to Mary! God had sent her long before, and
thus she had taken possession of the Americas.
In Rome, during the celebration in 1933 of the fourth cen-
tennial of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, five hundred
bishops requested the Holy See to extend the Mass and Office
to the Universal Church. This petition was not granted. Two
years later, however, the Philippine Islands obtained from the
Holy See the patronage of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It seems that
the Virgin of Guadalupe did not want her Mass extended to the
Universal Church, because she wants first to be known, and
then loved and venerated.
The texts of her Mass and Office for December 12 adapt
Scripture to the occasion of her coming. On reading her Mass,
thoughts instinctively come to ones mind of the Guadalupan
miracle. The Gospel — the Visitation to Marys cousin and to the
unborn Baptist — reminds us of the visit at the hill of Tepeyac
("into the hill country", the Gospel says) to the yet unborn
Church in the New World. The Gradual describes the first and
last apparition, as well as the fruits of her visit: "Who is she,"
it asks, "who comes up like the rising morn, fair as the moon,
brilliant as the sun? As the rainbow, when it glistens amidst
clouds of glory, and as the rose blossoms in the time of spring
The Alleluia verse continues: "The flowers have appeared in our
land, the time of pruning is come, Alleluia." Who will not think
of the winter roses and the apparitions of Mary of Guadalupe
on reading these verses from the Canticle of Canticles? And
still more explicitly, the Offertory verse (2 Par. 7), which is re-
peated as the Magnificat antiphon in Vespers, easily recalls to
our minds Our Lady's visit to America: "I have chosen and have
sanctified this place, that my name may be there, and my eyes
and my heart may remain forever."
The Communion verse is from Psalm 147: "Non fecit taliter
omni nationi," ("He hath not done in like manner to every nation"),
which the great Pontiff, Benedict XIV, applied to Mary in her
apparitions in the New World. He personally composed the
Collect for Our Lady of Guadalupe's Mass and Office, which he
granted two centuries ago, 1754, in his Brief, "Non est Equidem".
The Holy See And Guadalupe
No less than twenty-five Popes have directly or indirectly
approved the apparitions of Holy Mary of Guadalupe. Six of
these testimonies are outstanding.
Benedict XIV (1740-1758) granted the patronage of the
Immaculate Virgin of Guadalupe to Mexico. Eyewitnesses testified
that he wept, when he heard the story of her apparitions and
saw a replica of the miraculous Picture. It was then that, falling
on his knees, he exclaimed, "Non fecit taliter omni nationi," which
has since been the distinctive motto of the Madonna of the
Leo XIII (1878-1903) is the Pope of the Guadalupan Corona-
tion. It was October 12, 1895, with his express authorization, that
the coronation of the original image took place at Tepeyac. For
this occasion the Office of the feast had been revised by the
Sacred Congregation of Rites, with the special sanction of Pope
Leo XIII. Three years later, when the same Pontiff crowned
Our Lady of Guadalupe for Bergamo, Italy, he remarked, that
"a more beautiful image than this we have never been able to
admire, and her amiability invites us to consider how beautiful
Mary must be in heaven."
Blessed Pius X (1903-1914), in the fifth year of his reign,
granted the Canons of the Basilica of Guadalupe the faculty of
wearing the same choral vesture which is worn at the Basilica
of Our Lady of Loreto. In this Brief he wrote these memorable
words: "Among the most famous churches of the Christian world
must be mentioned, with all justice and right, the one which
exists in Mexico in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe/' Two
years later he declared as Patroness of Latin America, "the most
Holy Virgin Mary in her title of Guadalupe/'
Benedict XV (1914-1922) crowned an image of Our Lady of
Guadalupe for Albino, Italy, in 1919. A few months later, on
December 12 of the same year, he made this notable pronounce-
ment: "THE VIRGIN OF GUADALUPE IS THE PROTECTRESS
OF THE PONTIFF."
Pius XI (1922-39) attended the ceremony celebrated in the
Basilica of the Vatican on December 12, 1933, when a replica
of the Virgin of Guadalupe, by a unique and special concession
of His Holiness, occupied the "Gloria" of Bernini. This is the
first image of Mary which has ever been placed here, where only
the symbol of the Blessed Trinity or the image of those to be
beatified is honored.
In 1945 His Holiness Pope Pius XII designated as his Legate
a Latere His Excellency Rodrigo Cardinal Villeneuve of Quebec
to attend the Guadalupan solemnities on the occasion of the
50th anniversary of her Coronation. It is especially since this
time of Our Lady of Guadalupe's second coronation, when she
received an imperial crown, that she has been known as Empress
of America. The Holy Father also sent a radio message to Mexico
and America, placing the whole Western Hemisphere under her
" On the tilma of poor Juan Diego was painted with brushes
not of this world a most sweet Picture, which the corrosive work of
centuries was most wondrously to respect. The amiable Maiden asked
for a See from which she might 'show and give all her love and
compassion, help and protection to all the inhabitants of that land
and to all others who would invoke her and trust in her/ Since
that historical moment the total evangelization has been accomplished.
Furthermore, a banner was hoisted and a fortress has been erected
against which the fury of all the storms would break. One of the
fundamental pillars of the Faith in Mexico and in all America was
thus firmly established.
"Hail, O Virgin of Guadalupe! We, to whom the admirable dis-
position of Divine Providence, not taking notice of Our unworthiness,
has entrusted the sacred treasure of the divine wisdom on earth for
the salvation of the souls of all, place once more the crown upon your
brow. May you keep forever under your powerful patronage the
purity and integrity of our holy Faith, both in Mexico and on the entire
American continent. For We know and are certain that as long as you
are acknowledged as Queen and Mother, America and Mexico are safe."
Art and Devotion
Sister Johanna, O.S.B., remarks, that "the miraculous image
of Our Lady of Guadalupe shows how she prefers to be painted"
(cf. Sponsa Regis, Oct., 1953). Knowing the difficulty we have
in forming a fitting image of her in our minds when we pray to
her, she came to our aid, giving us this miraculous Picture. Thus
Our Lady fosters our devotion with a work of sacred art which
surely is not able to be equalled by human hands. Its features,
kept before the eyes and transferred to the mind, attract to noble
purity of character and life. With its heavenly modesty and
delicacy, it is, as it were, a bulwark for us against aggressive
worldliness and materialism. It can even be the instrument for
mutual understanding among peoples in this hemisphere.
Brothers through Mary
A Pan-American Union may be helpful in political and
economic spheres, but it cannot succeed until there is the founda-
tion of a spiritual and religious union. Such a bond is realized by
acknowledging that we are all sons and daughters of Mary. And
the Madonna of the Americas has made this possible. Her picture
causes us to remember the words she spoke to Juan Diego, that
she is a loving Mother to all those born in these lands, America.
Nor does she exclude any of her children in other parts of the
world, for she also said, "And to all those who love and call
upon me." SALVE, SPES AMERICAE!